Future pasture

Our neighbour surprised me by showing up in his tractor to till some of our pasture.

Our “pasture” is more a memory of a field.  Abandoned for a decade, there´s very little actual grass left in the former field.  It´s choked with goldenrod, berry canes, scrubby bushes I don´t know, and the local invading species scourge – glossy leaf buckthorn.  Plus the incursion of poplars from the edges.  If we hadn’t cut down 100’s of seedlings the last few years, the former field would be entirely closed.

As it is, we have about one third of the total former field cleared. The other two thirds are worse off.  Two summers ago, we moved the pigs around on this part, they dutifully rooted, and I followed with seed.  I got some clover established but that was about all.  So, our neighbor came and tilled for us.  He says that he will till once more to smooth it out some, I´ll seed, and then we´ll see how much of the “unwanted”s grow back from the roots.

 It always amazes me how much work can be accomplished with petroleum energy.  Massive change to the surface of the earth in a matter of hours. Now, the field is transformed.  For one thing, the view across it is uninterrupted by a bunch of twigs growing.  I look forward to the green mist of germination over it.

Eventually, we’ll get this pasture back to graze-able.

Guineas getting along

I thought this hen was about to expire.  She spent a couple days hunched up in the greenhouse (no neck), with her eyes half closed.     When hens get like that they aren´t feeling well.  Sometimes they pull through it, sometimes they die.  This hen is very old.  She could be six or seven years old.  She retired from doing eggs some time ago.  But it seems she´s pulling through, and has decided to camp at a higher altitude today.  Her neck is getting longer too.

I haven´t planted anything out in the GH yet, so the doors are open for the various fowl to come and go.  Mostly they don´t go in there unless it rains; they are reveling in playing outside and have had enough of the greenhouse.

A guinea update – on the first night of freedom the new pair came back to the greenhouse!  The second night, they were all up on the guinea house together- adorable!  They don´t spend the day together – they travel in two separate packs all day, but they´re cool.  They know where they live.  The three-pack has a favorite spot by the trail, where the hen nestles down into the leaves under a little tree.  I think she´s laying eggs, but not yet broody.  She didn´t pick a very secret spot.

 

 

The ticks came marching two by two

There are at least nine ticks in this picture.

I was out in the garden half the day, putting in some starts.  I go back to my pots of broccoli, and I find a mass of competing ticks playing king of the mountain on the popsicle stick (gross!).

Ticks climb up things, and then wait at the very tip of a branch or stick, reaching out their little legs like they want a hug, waiting for a mammal to walk by, and then they will drop  or grab as you go by.   The two on the right hand pot are in position.

Here, the popsicle stick must have been the highest point, so hot property.  They also like to sit in wait on the rim of buckets.  While I was taking the picture, and thinking how long is it going to take me to kill all these ticks?  a couple dropped and set off at a clip straight towards me.  They must have a great sense of smell.

We have lots of ticks.  Stand still anywhere, watch the ground, and you can find a  tick walking toward you.  This is not a fun feeling.

And where there are real ticks, there are phantom ticks.  There´s nothing like the first tick bite of the year to start up that feeling of ticks crawling all over you, all the time, even if it´s actually your hair or the tag in your shirt.  Less than ten percent of the time, it is a real tick, but ´tis the season to be on edge.

I need several platoons of guineas out here to mop them up.  Speaking of which, they all seem to be getting along.  This morning when I opened the greenhouse, the new ones led the charge out the door and flowed straight into the woods. 

I caught sight occasionally of the new ones in the woods, confused, squawking, but at the end of the day they were all together again, and standing around the greenhouse.  Hopefully the new ones will show them around.

 

Additions to the farmily

Two new guinea hens!  Delivered in a feed sack.

Birds in a bag

Of my remaining guineas (three died before maturity), I´ve been thinking I have only one hen.  Maybe.  They all have wattles.

I just got it explained to me though, that they do all have wattles, and the gender difference in guineas shows in the SIZE of the wattles.  And their overall size.  So yes, I have one hen (had).

Regardless, I wanted to even out the numbers some by adding a couple of hens.  That would make three hens and two cocks; a better ratio. They arrived this evening.

I carried the sacked birds to the greenhouse in my arms, their little feet holding on to my hands through the bag.

I set them down in the greenhouse.

Do NOT peck that bag, ladies!

My hens immediately showed an interest.

I brought in the chickery and placed it around the bag.

The screen doors are off their hinges at the moment, so I used one of those to rest on top of the chickery cage for a lid.  I tipped it up to reach in and slide them out of the bag.  They were peaceful in the bag, but after being back in the light came on like a couple of jumping beans.

They were not happy about being caged.  Not one bit.  Racing up and down the walls in agitation.

Uh oh.  One´s a guy!  That doesn´t help at all!

He´s quite a bit bigger than her, with much bigger wattles.

It took about a tenth of a second for my original guineas to discover the interlopers. They popped their heads in the GH before I turned around.

And then, sure enough, the males squared up at each other through the screen, vigorously pecking at the barrier.   Back and forth, like a typewriter.

The originals were quite worked up, and there was much scampering in and out of the greenhouse (Did you see them?  Take another look!), but not a lot of noise.

I left them to it.

My big plan was to wait until it got dark enough for the originals to head for bed, whereupon I would shut them in the greenhouse, release the newbies, and they would have overnight to work it out together in the confines of the greenhouse.   I was sorry about the zoo cage, but it was only for about an hour, and I didn´t want to risk the new ones taking off in fright and getting lost.

Maybe I shouldn´t have over thought it.  A little later, a little darker, I shut the greenhouse doors and  lifted the screen door/lid off the new arrivals who were ready to blast out.  Hen first, they burst out, flew across the room and skidded to a stop right into the group.    They came to a halt, silence fell (!), and all of them proceeded to stand there looking around suspiciously, like they always do.

What?  Oh, we know each other.  We´re cool.

In three seconds, the new birds are indistinguishable from the old ones.  They´re just hangin’ out like they´ve never spent a day apart.

I thought they were going to fight.  Maybe they were just excited.

Well, that was easy.

 

From farm to spa

Two lucky hens went for a long drive in a box.

I have a long-running ad on Kijiji to divest of Silkie roosters, rather than axe them, and sometimes I sell hens and eggs.  Keeping the flock manageable.

I think it´s simply hilarious to put them in EGGS boxes.  No one else thinks it’s quite so funny.  “It’s like the chicken and the eggs…which came first?  The eggs are going to come out of the box, but not right away?… Oh never mind”.  Also it´s like the Boxtrolls.

Grumpy chicken is not pleased with the box

Anyway, two hens went for a long drive (they made hardly a peep), and got a major lifestyle upgrade.  I got a text late in the day reporting that the hens  had loved every minute of a shampoo and warm blowdry (I bet they did.  I bet they’re simply gawgeous. ), and they also enjoy being held and petted. We’re not on the farm any more, Dorothy.  They’re probably hoping I forget to pick them up from this spa weekend.   It´s the bouff I´ve always dreamed of! I’ve always wanted a good blowout. I can´t even imagine how fluffy they got.

I did choose two of the shyest, most anxious and retiring chickens, because I had a feeling they were going somewhere to be pets, and they could appreciate the lifestyle upgrade.   I didn’t know it was going to be a spa package upgrade.

Coming soon to a neighbourhood near you: purse chickens.

Piglets First Wallow

I dumped the pigs’ muddy water out into a handy trench they´d dug right by their house.  I am so grateful that they have not yet learned how joyous it is to dump their water out themselves, at which point we have to take measures to prevent them from doing it.  So far they´ve been very restrained and let us do it for them. 

Each pig took a jubilant flop into the mud, one side, the other, and then Hey it´s my turn, the other pig.

They didn´t linger.  They came up evenly coated with mud, glistening except for one dry strip down the middle of the back, indistinguishable from the other.  No socks, no blazes. Just mud.

Mud pigs look exactly alike

By the time I got my camera, they had moved on to other activities, like scratching on  a cutoff tree.

Ummm, the ear. Yes!
Oh yeah, the neck. Oh yeah.  Other pig leaves….

 

Oh and the other ear, uh huh, yeah.
And for a good undercarriage scratch, you can drag your belly across the stick

Newspaper “pots” for tomatoes.

Another experiment.

I hate plastic; I might not have enough plastic pots anyway; they wouldn´t be deep cylinders.  So I tried making some pots out of newspaper to pot up my tomatoes into.

I rolled them around a bottle (half-sheet each), crunched in the paper on the bottom, slid the cylinder off the bottle,  and then turned over the half inch at the “brim” to the outside.  That´s what keeps them rolled.  Takes about 20 seconds each.  They kind of try to unroll anyway, but they hold together great once a little soil goes in them.

It remains to be seen how well they hold together once they have a plant in them and get watered.  But if all goes well, I can write the variety right on the paper with a Sharpie, and I suppose I can put them directly in the ground as is (that´s a lot of newspaer ink, though).

Ready to accept transplants.  We shall see.

So far, so good

Pigs

The piglets are settling in, and getting a little friendlier.

They are kind of like dogs in some ways.  They stretch out their back legs behind them when they first get up, wag their tails, enjoy a good sprint, even do some barking, which sounds like whooping cough.

These pigs are so dynamic, I can’t believe the difference from the 2014 pink pigs.  They are not lazy or laidback.  They express themselves with a good back and forth sprint the length of their fence, whenever we come out with their food, or a treat.  They´re deep into rooting already, and don´t sleep in.  They´re up with the chickens.

Plowing with your NOSE. I can´t get over it.
So cute!

AP  (“my pig”) is pushy (the one with a blaze).  AP is bolder.    Spots, or Spotty, has more white on her face – her blaze is patchy.  She also has white lower eyelashes on her right eye.

They have a big splashy go at the dog bowl.

They have a big wrestle over it, but it seems to come out equal, so we haven´t introduced a second bowl yet.

Joinup!  First contact, helped by the prospect of some milk:)

Cleaner Bees

I’ve got my bees at work cleaning up the frames that were centrifuged last year to get the honey out.

Since that whole event was a catastrophe of timing, FAR too late, I held these sticky frames over the winter in Rubbermaids, which worked really well.  Now it´s warm I set one out by the hive with the lid off for the cleanup crew.

The frames fit in there like they would in a super

The bees cleaned out this whole boxful in a couple days, except a couple spots.  Licked totally clean, no longer even sticky to touch.

Missed a spot. Bees concentrating on their work.
Bees hanging out at the hive upper entrance, still wrapped in tar paper.

The cleaning job is of an indescribably high quality.    The frames go from this:

Wet, sticky, leftover honey everywhere

to this:

Clear, clean, and dry

Pristine.  And a boxful in a couple days.  They get a snack out of it, too.